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Herz. 2006 Aug;31(5):413-22.

[Reconstructive surgery of the aortic valve: the Ross, David, and Yacoub procedures].

[Article in German]

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  • 1Klinik für Herzchirurgie, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Lübeck, Lübeck.


The aortic valve consists of three cusps attached to the wall of the aortic root. During the cardiac cycle, the aortic root undergoes complex movements that precede and aid opening and closing of the aortic valve. The aortic valve cusps themselves form thin-walled pocket-like structures, made from specialized tissue with fibrous, elastic, nervous, and muscular properties. The complex interactions of this tissue with the aortic root and within the cardiac cycle are only incompletely understood yet. In summary, the aortic valve is a complex structure which shows a perfect function in systole and diastole and under a wide range of hemodynamic conditions. No valve prosthesis (so far) can keep up with the function of the native aortic valve. Therefore, surgical techniques have been invented that aim at sparing the aortic valve or replacing it with very similar autologous tissue. Besides the resulting (near) normal valve function, one appealing advantage of these techniques is that oral anticoagulation can be abandoned completely. If the valve cusps themselves are normal, but the aortic root is aneurysmatic or dissected (with or without resulting secondary aortic insufficiency), the aortic valve can be spared by resecting the aortic root tissue and replacing it by a vascular graft. The aortic valve can then be implanted into the vascular graft in a way described by David, or can be remodeled into it (Yacoub technique) - in this case, the graft first needs to be incised at its base so that the three commissures of the valve can be sewn into the three incisions. This way pseudosinuses within the vascular graft are created. The sinuses within the aortic root are considered important for aortic valve function and coronary perfusion. On the other hand, incisions at the base of the vascular graft harbor the potential for redilatation of the aortic root because of a missing circular fixation. Such a fixation is achieved by the David technique. Therefore, there is a great debate in the surgical community which valve-sparing technique is the best and numerous modifications of the original techniques exist. A clear clinical advantage of one technique over the other could not be demonstrated so far, but many authorities advise that the David technique is to be used preferentially in patients with Marfan's syndrome (or other connective tissue disorders) and those with a very wide basal aortic root. If the aortic valve cusps themselves are diseased and cannot be reconstructed, the autologous pulmonary valve is the most physiological substitute. Replacing the aortic valve with the autologous pulmonary valve is named Ross procedure. The defect in the right ventricular outflow tract that is created while harvesting the autograft must be reconstructed during the same procedure; usually, a pulmonary valve allograft is used for this purpose. With all reconstructive surgical techniques and with all autologous replacements there is a risk of reoperation, mainly (besides technical issues) because it is feared that leaving autologous tissue in place leads to recurrence of the original illness. The published results, however, with aortic valve-sparing surgery and with the Ross procedure show that the risk of reoperation appears to be very acceptable. This statement is especially true for the Ross procedure for which more and longer experience exists worldwide. Echocardiographic studies show that the aortic valve function after valve-sparing techniques and - especially - after the Ross procedure is indeed excellent. Therefore, patients with aortic root pathologies or aortic valve diseases should be informed about valve-sparing aortic root reconstructive techniques or the Ross procedure. The choice of technique should be made in close contact between patient, cardiologist, and cardiac surgeon. However, the described techniques require extensive experience within the surgical team.

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